Column Eight: A warning from Lloyds

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The Independent Online
If popular myth is to be believed, banks and small businesses have about as much in common as the barbarian hordes and the Roman empire. But that has not stopped Lloyds continuing its lengthy association with Penguin Books' Small Business Guide. The sixth edition, published next Thursday, is, however, significantly different from its predecessors. It includes a new chapter on dealing with bank managers - the country's Hissing Sids, according to the author, Sara Williams.

While the banks may be taking it on the chin, they show few signs of learning their lessons. A branch of Barclays Bank on the fringes of the City has a sign warning customers that it will shortly be opening on Wednesdays at 10am rather than 9.30am. This, it says, is to enable staff to take part in a training programme 'aimed at improving our service to you'.

Sign of the times? The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers has launched a recruitment drive.

Nothing, it seems, can knock the smiles off some people's faces. While just about everybody ponders whether we are seeing the end of the world as we know it, Stewart Anderson is in ebullient mood in an editorial commemorating the 10th anniversary of Boardroom magazine. After noting the advantages for circulation of new distribution in Docklands, the editor concludes: 'We start our second decade with the first suggestions of the end of the recession and with our sights firmly set on another 10 years of success and growth.'

Speaking of recession, it is good to see that some people have not lost their sense of humour. St George's Vineyard of Waldron, East Sussex, has launched a white table wine called Recession - 'a 'Major' English wine not to 'Lamont' about', according to the vineyard's press release. But don't the Schonburger and Reichensteiner grapes from which it is made sound a little German in origin?

The tough economic climate does not appear to be hardening City hearts as much as the poor returns of Sir John Cuckney's ill-fated appeal would suggest. While Sir John is being told that firms cannot help the victims of Robert Maxwell's pensions plundering without the approval of their boards, Bankers Trust has coughed up pounds 33,000 for the Tommy's Campaign, which aims to raise pounds 5m for a research centre into premature births.

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